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Planning for Financial Health After Deployment
Homecoming is an exciting time as you reconnect with family and friends and reintegrate to life stateside. During this readjustment period, it’s important that you revisit your financial affairs since your income and monthly expenses will change now that you are no longer serving in a combat environment. Evaluating your financial health to make sure your obligations and needs are covered will help you prevent financial related stress that could eventually lead to debt, relationship challenges or psychological health concerns such as depression or substance misuse.1 Using the tips and tools in this article will help give you financial peace of mind as you reintegrate to life at home.
This is the third article in a three part series on preventing financial stress during all stages of deployment. Although you have returned from deployment, the article, “Preparing Your Finances Before Deployment,” can provide you with useful tips and tools to help you organize your financial obligations, develop a financial management plan and create a savings plan. Additionally, many of the suggestions and resources highlighted in the article, “Managing Financial Challenges During Deployment” can help you keep your financial health in check and cope with financial challenges after deployment.
Determine Financial Management Roles
While you were away, a spouse, parent or other responsible individual may have served as your financial overseer and managed your financial obligations. Now that you’re home, it’s important to re-evaluate these roles to establish who will manage your family’s financial responsibilities. Determining financial roles quickly on your return will help make sure your family stays current on financial obligations.
For additional tips and tools to help you and your family transition through post-deployment, read the Real Warriors Campaign articles, “Transitioning Through Reunion” and “Tips for Spouses of Returning Service Members”.
Revisit Your Legal Affairs
Before you deployed, you may have established a power of attorney to legally grant a family member or other responsible individual the right to make decisions on your behalf. Any existing power of attorney will remain in effect until the expiration date, if it was included, or until you revoke it. If the power of attorney established prior to your deployment does not have an expiration date or if the expiration date has not yet arrived, you may take steps to revoke the power of attorney by working with your lawyer or contacting the legal office at your installation.2
Additionally, you may have drafted or updated your will prior to deployment to make sure your property would be handled following your wishes in case of death. It’s important to revisit your will to make sure it still meets your needs and preferences.2
For assistance with revoking your power of attorney or updating your will, contact the legal office at your installation or use the U.S. Armed Forces Legal Assistance locator to find legal help near you.
Update Your Record of Emergency Data and Servicemembers Group Life Insurance Form
The Record of Emergency Data (RED), also known as Page 2 or DD Form 93, is used to contact next of kin, designate a beneficiary to receive certain military benefits and identify an individual to coordinate funeral arrangements. It is important that your RED is regularly maintained by revisiting your form at least once a year to make sure it’s current.3 To update your RED, visit:
Prior to deployment, you may have updated your Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) form, which identifies the legal beneficiary for your SGLI payment in case of death.3 You should review your SGLI form yearly and update as needed. For more information or to update your form, visit the Servicemembers and Veterans Group Life Insurance page.
Understand Expiring Financial Protections
While you were deployed, you may have taken advantage of the financial protections offered to active duty service members, including activated members of the National Guard and reserve, through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). SCRA financial relief options include suspending or postponing certain financial obligations such as credit card payments, rent or mortgage payments, taxes and other commitments. It’s important to revisit the terms of your financial protections to understand your obligations now that you’re home. For more information or assistance with understanding your SCRA financial protections, contact your nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program using the military legal assistance office locator.
Review Your Leave and Earnings Statement
When you return from deployment, your monthly income will change. The additional special pays and allowances received throughout deployment will expire and taxes will be applied to your income since you’re no longer serving in a combat zone.
For members of the National Guard and reserve forces, your active duty pay will discontinue and you will switch back to receiving monthly drill pay from the military. Additionally, as you transition back to a civilian career, keep in mind that you may not receive your civilian employment income right away and you may have to work a pay period before receiving your compensation.2
Check your Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) to confirm that your post deployment income is accurate. If there are any errors, do not spend any extra pay that you received and report the discrepancy to your unit’s pay administrator.
Develop a Financial Management Plan
To help you and your family adjust to the new monthly income, develop a financial management plan. This plan will help you understand your total take home pay after deductions; account for expenses such as a car loan, rent, mortgage, groceries and utilities; pay off credit cards and other debt; and save money for the future. To get started, download and complete Military OneSource’s Financial Management Plan worksheet and template [PDF 116KB]. For additional tools to help you manage your monthly spending such as a daily spending diary, monthly payment calendar and a spending plan worksheet, visit MyMoney.gov.
For recurring payments such as a car loan, rent, mortgage or savings account deposits, set up allotments through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) to have these financial obligations automatically deducted from your pay and distributed on your behalf. You can have up to six discretionary allotments per month and you can manage them at your convenience.4 For more information on allotments, visit the Defense Finance and Accounting Service website or contact your installation’s finance office.
For members of the National Guard and reserve, read the Real Warriors Campaign article “Reintegrating into Civilian Life” to help you readjust to life at home. Check out the Real Warriors Campaign article, “For Employees: Reintegrating into Civilian Employment” for additional tips and resources to help you transition to your civilian job.
Spend and Save Responsibly
As you reintegrate to life at home, it’s important that you and your family follow the financial management plan that you developed based on your post-deployment income. Sticking to your plan will prevent overspending and the possibility of incurring debt.
If you have extra money available in your new financial management plan, explore options for saving or investing it each month. Setting aside even a small amount allows you to put your money somewhere that you will not be tempted to spend it. Remember, it is never too late to start saving. Contact your financial institution to learn about savings and investment opportunities that fit your needs.
To help you save for your future, enroll in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The TSP is a retirement savings and investment plan sponsored by the federal government that allows you to make pre-tax contributions to a retirement fund. For more information or to set-up a TSP account, visit www.tsp.gov.
Get Additional Help Managing Your Finances
If you find that you are experiencing stress due to financial concerns, there are several programs and resources available to help warriors find assistance.
- Military OneSource offers financial counseling ranging from basic money management and savings tips to dealing with debt and financial emergencies. For more information or to get starting with financial counseling, call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or visit the Military OneSource Money Management webpage.
- Personal Financial Management Program (PFMP) provides assistance and resources to help you and your family successfully plan your financial future. Through the PFMP, you can learn about consumer rights, receive assistance with debt liquidation or work with a financial counselor to develop a budget. The program can also help you coordinate with emergency relief organizations for financial assistance. To locate a PFMP near you, search the Military Installations website for “Personal Financial Management Services.”
- VeteransPlus provides free, confidential financial education counseling to service members and veterans. Their resources can help you better manage your finances, get control of any debt that you may have and learn how to save and invest for your future. For more information or to join Veterans Plus, visit www.veteransplus.org or call 888-488-8767.
Visit the Real Warriors Campaign Message Boards to share your stories and advice about financial health after deployment in the Active Duty forum.
- Better Business Bureau Military Line
- Financial Readiness (Army)
- Personal Financial Readiness (Air Force)
- Personal Financial Management (Navy)
- Financial Resources (Marines)
- Financial Management Awareness Program (National Guard)
- Defense Finance and Accounting Services
- Military Money
- Military Saves
- National Resource Directory: Money Management and Financial Counseling
1 “VeteransPlus Program,” VeteransPlus. Last accessed July 19, 2013.
2 “Military Deployment Guide: Preparing You and Your Family for the Road Ahead,” [PDF 16.49MB]. Defense Department. Updated February 2011.
3 “Why is it important for service members to update their SGLI and vRED?" [PDF 76.6KB] Military HOMEFRONT. Last accessed July 19, 2013.
4 “Pay Allotments,” Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Last accessed July 19, 2013.
4 “How Service Members Can Stay Fiscally Fit During Deployment," MilitaryOneSource. Last accessed July 19, 2013.